Acura dealers, having weathered a troublesome 2011, head into 2012 armed with a fresh stock of inventory and eager for the arrival of two entry-level models in the spring.
Car and truck supplies are getting back to normal after two natural disasters -- an earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand -- forced Japanese carmakers to slash production last year. That left dealers without supplies of many key models and sent Acura's sales tumbling to 123,299 vehicles in 2011, down 8 percent from the prior year.
Acura executives hope to reverse that slide this year and have set a sales target of 180,000 vehicles, which would be a 46 percent jump over 2011.
Two newcomers to the market in March -- the entry-level ILX sedan and the redesigned RDX crossover -- could help Acura reach that goal. Acura will redesign the rest of its lineup within the next two years.
For dealers, getting off to a fast start in 2012 is crucial, said George D'Angelo, chairman of the Acura National Dealer Advisory Board.
"Acura dealers are very, very excited," said D'Angelo, whose Acura dealership in Larchmont, N.Y., was among the first Acura stores in the country, opening in 1986.
"There has been a re-energizing of the brand with all the upcoming cars."
D'Angelo, who also owns Subaru and Kia dealerships in Stamford, Conn., spoke with Staff Reporter Christina Rogers.
How was 2011 for Acura dealers?
We were off to a great start in the first quarter of 2011 versus 2010. Sales were up approximately 14 percent and then the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March and really impacted the supply of new product. Just as production was normalizing, Acura had dealers who were then impacted by the floods in Thailand. It's been a struggle. But as of Dec. 1, production has normalized. Overall, final 2011 sales were a bit less than 2010 due to the natural disasters.
The good news is first-quarter 2012 production will be higher than first-quarter 2011 production.
Do you feel that because of the short supplies customers have turned elsewhere?
I don't know what the numbers are on what we lost to other manufacturers, but this particular dealership hasn't seen an impact because of the various things we do.
We try to get customers out of their leases early and we do pull-ahead programs. But there was an impact. There is no question about it.
We weren't the only ones faced with this. Toyota was faced with it, as well as a number of the other Japanese manufacturers.
We gave incentives to customers if we didn't have a car in stock so they'd wait for the car, and things of that nature.
What are the big issues for Acura dealers in 2012?
We need to get off to a fast start in 2012 because of the increased production and increased sales level to reach that 180,000 sales goal. We are coming out with a whole new slew of products.
The ILX is going to be a real winner in the category it serves. The RDX is just super. The price point is great. We've got a six-cylinder car now, as opposed to a four-cylinder turbo. And in December 2012 you have the introduction of the all-new RL, and the big buzz naturally is the new Acura NSX.
Are dealers satisfied with Acura?
Dealers are never satisfied. Any product you represented you are never really satisfied. But overall, dealers are satisfied under the circumstances of what happened in 2011, and they're very excited for 2012.
Profitability was good. It's never as high as dealers expect it to be, but the reality of three years of recession have taught us to make money in the face of adversity. I think Acura is at a good point. I think it's a good price point. I think it offers real value for the money, and I think people are recognizing that.
Are Acura dealers profitable?
Yes. I don't know what the percentage numbers are, but they're very high.